Monday, 18 December 2017

The early season Silver Star – Sovereign Lake X-C ski Supercamps attract large numbers

by Keith and Heather Nicol

 We just returned from teaching in the early season Supercamps that are held every year at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake located near Vernon in B.C.’s Interior. This year this area had early snow and conditions for the camps were close to perfect. In fact, the last week featured classic Okanagan sunny skies with day time temperatures around -4C- ideal for both classic and skate skiing. These camps have been running for many years but seem to be getting more popular and this year was the largest in some time with well over 300 participants.
A group practicing poling at Sovereign Lake Nordic ski area

   The camps are broken down into 3 day and 5 day camps and this year ran from November 20 to December 10. Classes involve instruction by some of Canada’s top cross country ski instructors and coaches and a chance to ski on the 105 km trail network which includes trails at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake Nordic ski areas.  The camps offer video analysis of your skiing plus late afternoon lectures on nutrition, yoga, how to prepare for skiing a loppet and much more. There are a variety of specialized programmes including biathlon, a pro camp for aspiring masters racers and new this year is “Wild Women” programme which involves enjoying the nordic ski experience in a fun, friendly, female-focused environment. Spend your mornings on skis improving your technique, and then relax in the afternoons with wine & yoga, a strength and conditioning session, and other exciting extras. Like many of the sessions this year this programme sold out early. Class size varies but is usually between 5-6 participants per instructor which makes for personalized instruction. 
The views from the trails are spectacular
 For those that missed the early season camps you can still take part in Supercamp with 2 more sessions coming up on January 12-14, 2018 and February 16-18, 2018. For more information email : or check out:
We love being able to ski right from our door at Silver Star

The Marine Conservation Atlas for Hornby Island would make a fine Christmas gift

  by Keith and Heather Nicol  
If you are looking for a useful last minute Christmas gift for that person that loves to visit Hornby Island then have a look at the Marine Conservation Atlas that has just been produced by the Hornby Island Conservancy. This colourful 30 page atlas presents information of a variety of topics from seabirds to herring to marine mammals and where they might be seen in the waters or coastal areas of Hornby Island.  The Atlas costs just $20 each and add $3 for postage if you are wanting to order it. Copies can be obtained by contacting : For more information on the Hornby Island Conservancy see the following web site: 
This spiral bound Atlas is a perfect gift for anyone that loves Hornby Island

Heather kayaking along the low cliffs at Helliwell Park
   We have spent many days on Hornby Island since we moved to the Comox Valley 3 years ago  and the Marine Conservation Atlas is one way to learn more about it. Be sure to check it out. Hornby Island is a special place
and we love sea kayaking around its shores and walking the scenic Helliwell Park trail along the shore. That is a trail you can do over and over again and never tire of the amazing views and interesting and varied vegetation. While sea kayaking we have seen orcas up close as well as seals and sea birds. There is more information about sea kayak launch points in some of our previous posts- just type “Hornby Island sea kayaking” in the search bar at the top left of this page.
Orcas off of Flora Island

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Early season cross country skiing at Mt Washington brings sun and warm weather

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Kristie and Heather skiing Jutland
   Mt Washington Ski Resort near Courtenay on Vancouver Island opened its cross country trails on December 8, 2017 and we have been up skiing over the last couple of days enjoying the sun and warm temperatures.  It is great to leave the fog and valley cloud of the Comox Valley behind and climb into the sunshine and get in some good skiing at the same time. With the limited snow cover not all the trails are open but they do have 21.5 km of trails open for skate and classic skiing at the present time. Marc Lister the Nordic Manager told us they need another 20-30 cm of snow before they can start grooming the trails in Strathcona Park. With snow forecast for the in the next few days that may be enough to get the popular ski and snowshoe trails in Strathcona Park open.  
Kristie skiing with Mt Albert Edward in the background

     Over the last 2 days we skied a variety of trails including Jutland, West Passage, the Sprint Loops and the Grind. Our daughter Kristie has been visiting from Vancouver and Kristie enjoyed skiing  Jutland and West Passage.  Also the good weather provided stunning views of Mt Albert Edward.  At the present there are 9 trails open for cross country skiing and 4 snowshoe trails ready to go. Also if the fog and cloud in the valley is getting you down then check out the Mt Washington web cams and see what the weather is doing up high. It just might be better than down below.  The web cams can be seen at:  Happy trails! 
The stadium offers wide open skiing for both classic and skate skiing

Friday, 1 December 2017

Checking out the early season skiing at Sovereign Lake Nordic ski area

by Keith and Heather Nicol   
Heather leaving the day lodge
We like to get in some early season cross country skiing at Sovereign Lake Cross ski area which is known for its early consistent snow. Sovereign Lake is located just 30 minutes from Vernon, B.C. in the sunny B.C. Interior. This year the season started even earlier than normal and conditions are superb. We skied at Sovereign Lake on Wednesday, November 29 and arrived to sunny skies and temperatures of -4C. They had several cm of new snow and we were told that over 30 km of trails had been groomed for classic and skating that day.  Sovereign Lake is a large ski club but despite its large membership we find the lodge friendly and welcoming. And it certainly attracts people from across the country at this time of year. We met friends from Halifax and Calgary in the lodge while we had our lunch. What a coincidence! Sovereign is a full service club with rentals, lessons, and a small cafeteria and offers many programmes for kids and adults. And when you combine the length of the trail system at Sovereign with adjacent Silver Star Mountain you have the largest trail network in Canada at an impressive 105 km. Sovereign also offers snowshoeing but when we were there these trails needed abit more snow to open. For more information on Sovereign Lake Nordic see:

Keith skiing into the stadium with the day lodge in the background

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Orcas off Pt Holmes near Comox !

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Orcas between Pt Holmes and Denman Island
     On Friday, November 17 we were out checking out the new bird arrivals and stopped at Pt Holmes on Lazo Road near the Comox airport.  In the near shore waters we saw some harlequin ducks as well as buffleheads and some loons when some other bird watchers noticed some spray in the water to the south west of us. We could easily see between 7-8 orcas steaming west and they proceeded to swim right past us. They were some distance off shore but the perfectly flat calm conditions made them easy to see. At times they did some interesting tailing slapping activity and partially leaped out the water. It is not known why orcas tail slap but suggestions are that it may be a playful activity or may be used in hunting. The pod then headed into the main part of Georgia Strait and appeared to be heading north.  We have not seen orcas from shore from this location so this was a real highlight. 

Orca tail slapping
A pair of Mergansers swim past a swan
       Next we headed down to the Puntledge River in Courtenay to see what bird and seal activity we could see there. The tide was about 4 meters and we headed to Lewis Park and walked along the walkway next to the tennis courts. We were lucky to see many trumpeter swans which were swimming along the far shore. They have begun to arrive over the past couple of  weeks but we could get a fine close up view of them in the river. There were also many pairs of mergansers and some golden eye ducks in the vicinity. Several seals popped their heads up now and then taking advantage of the last of the salmon runs for this year.You never know what you might see so bring your binoculars and camera when you head out!

Trumpeter Swans